UFC 144: Card of the underdogs

Jake Shields throws a high kick at Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 144 on Feb. 25, 2012 in Saitama, Japan. Photo by Esther Lin via MMA Fighting
Jake Shields throws a high kick at Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 144 on Feb. 25, 2012 in Saitama,
Japan.Photo by Esther Lin via MMA Fighting

Even though I did a terrible 6 for 12 at UFC 144, it featured some of the most unexpected and incredible fights of the past year, with nice knockouts, a sweet submission and some real wars. We saw some real talent emerge, while other notable legends were put on an ice floe and sent out into the Bering Sea.

Instead of spamming the front page with 100 fight reviews and analysis like our esteemed friends with the keys to mania, I'm going to put up my thoughts, in brief, right here in the fan page zone.

Stats as shown include: strikes, takedowns, submission attempts, and guard passes.

I picked wrong on this one, despite the fact that Zhang looked so terrible against Darren Elkins. Maybe it's the fact that it was in Japan and I figured they threw him in there to fight Zhang just to round out the card with a full roster of Japanese fighters, but I was dead wrong.

Tamura showed good power, and quite honestly the way he put away Zhang was probably more brutal than the knockout of the night. I'd obviously like to see Tamura again in the UFC based on that performance, especially since he also dominated the first round. I'm not particularly interested in seeing the overrated Zhang ever again.

The robbery of the night, right? Well, maybe, maybe not. As you can see from the above statistics, Cariaso lit up Mizugaki on the feet, and the 28 punches that he scored in the fight were mainly from the so-called ground and pound he tried during his two takedowns.

Call me biased since I picked Cariaso, but I thought he earned two rounds. I could have been satisfied with Mizu winning two rounds as well, but if you're an MMA fan who is sick and tired of lay and pray fighters who rely on takedowns to win decisions when they're clearly losing the standup, then you should applaud the judges. Chris did more where it counted, and Mizu didn't do much when he got it on the ground.

Personally, I'd like to see Cariaso drop down to flyweight where I think he could be a real force. I mean, this is a guy who lost a split decision to Michael McDonald. Mizu will bounce back from this one and he has the star power and endurance to go three rounds with anybody.

Despite the fact Fukuda had been out for a year, I knew Cantwell was going to be in for a long night. We all know Cantwell has an iron chin, but not the cardio to do well at 185. He obviously needs an endurance trainer or something because that boy gasses out more than Jabba the Hutt.

When I watched Fukuda work over Nick Ring last year, who then took Tim Boetsch into deep waters, I knew Fukuda had way more than Cantwell, with four losses in a row coming into this fight, could handle. I'd like to see Fukuda fight a gatekeeper to the top 10 now, or at least somebody in the top 20. His cardio is also a little questionable, but he has a lot of heart.

As for Cantwell, it's probably best he heads over to Strikeforce for a while. He's still young and with a proper strength and conditioning coach he has all the skills in the world to make a comeback.

I'm proud to say this was my second underdog pick of the night. When I saw Kid Yamamoto weigh in looking like a chiselled Japanese ninja, I almost waffled. But there's a reason that Yamamoto is on a huge skid in his career. The glory days are over and his chin isn't what it used to be.

Meanwhile, Lee has lost to just Chris Cariaso in a split decision in his last seven fights. He has highly underrated standup, and wasn't taken seriously by MMA fans. Maybe it's because he fought in a lot of minor league organizations or maybe it's because he's British, but I liked how he survived the flurry from Yamamoto, stunned the Japanese fighter and then finished him with a great technical submission.

I hope they continue to take Lee slow. It's clear he's not ready for a big jump in competition. Meanwhile, I suspect Yamamoto is done. He's a name on a DREAM card in Japan now, nothing more.

I didn't expect Takanori Gomi to win when I picked him. I only did so because a part of me really likes his spirit and aggression. After getting nearly subbed in the first round, as well as almost getting knocked out, Gomi turned it on in the second round and won me 11 points. It was a great finish to the undercard. Sadly, Gomi added the delusional statement that he's bringing the belt back to Japan in his post-fight interview. Um, no, you're not.

Seriously, I'd be ok with the idea of Gomi retiring on this note. It would be nice. Unfortunately he won't, and he'll come out to the next UFC event and get subbed or knocked out by a better fighter. Unless the UFC shows mercy on him and matches him up against another Mitsuoka. Speaking of which, that guy needs a strength and conditioning coach as much as Cantwell.

Nice work. Especially on the shutout. Pettis literally didn't even get hit one time. Which means he could fight tomorrow if he were asked. And maybe he should. I'm not buying for one moment the hype that Anthony is ready for prime time after losing 30-27 to Guida, squeaking out a split decision to Jeremy Stephens, and then knocking out Joe Lauzon, whose biggest wins are over Melvin Guillard and Jens Pulver.

No, Pettis needs one more fight to cement his legitimacy as a contender in my mind. But the UFC won't care. They know Henderson versus Pettis 2 is money, and that's likely what's happening next. It's no mistake they fought on the same card either. As for Lauzon, he'll move back a few spaces, win two more fights and then lose another quarter-final contender match. Same as it ever was.

Congrats to Hioki for not sucking. After Palaszewski beat punch drunk fighter Tyson Griffin quickly in his last fight, I figured Bart had finally announced his presence in the bigtime. Especially considering he fought to a close loss against Kamil Shalorus and had defeated the much-hyped Anthony Pettis.

Nope. Although he survived against Hioki, it wasn't pretty. The Japanese fighter had somehow transformed from whatever it was that barely scraped by over George Roop, to a dominating ground guy that everybody thought he was when he first entered the UFC.

Although Hioki has mediocre standup, his ground game should be enough to handle most Featherweight fighters in the UFC. I'm not sure who he should face next since Bart is a sort of inconsistent and weird fighter to rank. But I'm way more intrigued about him than I was before this fight. As for Bart, he's a good fighter, but he learned he's not on Hioki's level and has a lot of wrestling and jujitsu training if he wants to stay relevant.

Comeback of the year? Probably. Before we all jump on the Boetsch bandwagon, this fight went down exactly like Mike Russow against Todd Duffee. Boetsch was one round away from losing a decision, but he turned it on with some vicious uppercuts and proved he has the kind of power to put anybody away in the division, even a guy with a chin like Okami's.

Having said that, let's not get carried away. Chael Sonnen would clearly outgrapple Boetsch, and a certain middleweight champion would have a field day with the kind of terrible standup we saw during the first two rounds of last night's fight. I'd like to see Boetsch against another top middleweight guy like a Chris Weidman before we hear about a title shot.

Poor Okami. The whole fight Rogan and Goldie were talking about how he always bounces back from losses with huge improvements. I guess not. There will be a real soul-searching period for Okami now, considering his two losses in a row and the fact he's been stopped twice in those fights. He's still only 30, so there's room for improvement but this might be a case of hard work not being able to beat talent. Some people outwork better fighters, but you can't outwork somebody who can touch your chin with Boetsch's power.

I won a sig bet with this fight but you know what? I don't know if I want to claim it. I think Akiyama won 29-28. How can I say that when Shields outstruck Akiyama 91-33? Well, if ever there was a comparison of a fight where volume strikes are irrelevant, it's this one.

This fight reminded me of the Diaz-Condit fight, except that Shields was the aggressor. The guy who landed more strikes had ridiculously ineffective, weak, and pathetic shots. I mean, if anybody can name a single strike among the 91 that landed that had any power whatsoever I'd be surprised. Akiyama landed better, more relevant shots, scored two incredible Judo takedowns, and stuffed every lame takedown attempt Shields threw at him.

To hand Shields a 30-27 decision is an embarrassment to MMA fighting. Personally, I think both fighters have a lot of introspection to do. Shields is a terrible, horrible welterweight fighter in the UFC. He gasses easily, has no effective striking, can't get a takedown to save his life, and is boring. Akiyama has no cardio to speak of, no killer instinct, and no apparent motivation, despite his cool walk-in, sweet tan, and sexy body.

I don't want to see either fighter again, quite frankly.

What the hell just happened? How did Mark Hunt knock out Cheick Kongo? I mean, I know that Kongo is a brain-dead, groin-striking, shorts-grabbing, backpeddaling, stiff-as-a-board fighter, but come on! Hunt has a single weapon in his arsenal and has all of the speed of a frikkin three-toed sloth. Kongo should be embarrassed he even got hit, let alone knocked out.

Kongo will be back because he's a great big heavyweight to slot on a main event card and turn in a win every few fighters. But Hunt has no future in the UFC. I guarantee that much like Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski, Hunt has been a product of fortuitous matchups in a talent-weak division. A lot of Pride nuthuggers will be all over Hunt for a while, but it's only a matter of time before he chokes and loses three or four in a row.

What an embarrassment. It's not enough to show up to Japan, walk out to a cool song, manage one slam, and then lay there and be love tapped to a decision by a guy with Bader's apparent lack of skill. I mean, dude, what a career you had. To end it like this... I just pray you're done. That was awful.

Even despite the fact Rampage missed weight, indicated he's done with fighting, and looked horrible in his last few outings, I figured this is a guy who rocked Rashad Evans, squeaked out a win over Machida, and survived several rounds with Jon Jones. He should have been able to win a decision against a uni-dimensional fighter like Ryan Bader since Rampage's strengths are arguably the same or better.

Nope. I hope Rampage is done now, so we can forget about that and remember his career for what it was. As for Bader, I've got nothing good to say about the guy. He beat a has-been. I suspect his future lies somewhere around the lower half of the top-10 in the division.

I had it scored 48-47 Henderson. If you look on Fightmetric, Bendo actually did outstrike (effectively, not like Condit), outwork, and outdamage Edgar. Having said that, it was close. Not close enough to warrant a rematch. We're all sick of Edgar rematches and his constant rematches has crowded the lightweight division like no other in the UFC.

Edgar has two options and both are good. He can stay as a perennial contender at 155, probably earning a rematch after three wins. Or he can drop to 145 and challenge Aldo (and don't say he needs a warmup fight, there's nobody for Aldo at 145 in the super weak Featherweight division).

As for Bendo, it would be fascinating to see BJ Penn come out of retirement and test him. Penn at 155 was indomitable until Edgar came along. Maybe Penn has the sort of style that would give Henderson conniptions. Although what will probably happen is that the UFC sets up an undeserved Pettis-Bendo 2 rematch.

All in all, fantastic card. I don't think we could have asked for a better, more varied and unpredictable event.

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